Portugal 3-0 Israel
2014 UEFA U-19 European Championship
Marcos Lopes was predictably the man-of-the-match today as Portugal defeated Israel 3-0 in their opening match of the 2014 U-19 European Championship. A goal from Andre Silva was sandwiched in between two Marcos Lopes goals, as Portugal’s attacking prowess greatly outweighed Israel’s much heralded defensive solidarity. But Portugal wasn’t a one-man team, as may be assumed with this title. The Portuguese looked a cohesive unit, with a clear focal point in attack and an effective gameplan.
The Portuguese entered this game and this tournament as clear favorites, with the other teams in Group A (Austria and Hungary) not expected to pose very much of a threat. Israel only conceded three goals in all of qualifying (6 games), which led many to believe that the Israeli’s defense would be very difficult to break down. And that assertion proved to be true, but possibly not to the extent that many predicted. When looking at each team’s tendencies going into this game (Portugal strong in attack, Israel in defense), one may have assumed that this would be a stop-start game, or at the very least would lack fluidity. That also did not prove to be true. The match was fluid, full of attacking intent, and though Portugal pressed more expertly at times, the teams looked largely even. Israel just lacked a cutting edge, something that Portugal exploited.
The match started in fluid fashion, with Portugal making use (as always) of their pacy, technically-gifted wingers. Gelson Martins started on the left with Ivo Rodrigues on the right. Both are well-known talents, but it was Gelson Martins who had the more impressive game, constantly running at the Israeli defense and giving Israel’s left-back a torrid time. The first chance of note came midway through the half. Marcos Lopes did well to draw a foul on the edge of the box. He then struck the ensuing free kick into the crossbar. It was beautifully hit, and he will feel a bit unlucky that his shot didn’t hit the back of the net. Portugal continued to press, and despite controlling the match, Israel did not look out of the contest. But it was Portugal who struck next through their talisman. A simple passing move from the team led to Marcos Lopes being open just outside the box. After receiving a pass from the captain, Tomas Podstawski, Lopes turned and shot. His effort deflected fortunately off of an Israeli player and crept past the Israeli goalkeeper. With the score 1-0, Portugal went into the half surely feeling better about the proceedings.
Israel, surely feeling that they were unlucky to be down 1-0, came out in the second half with much more attacking intent. As a result, the Portuguese played a more conservative style in the minutes following the half. But despite their best efforts, Israel’s attacking play was well thwarted by Portugal’s defensive efforts. And it was Portugal who struck again just after the hour mark. Marcos Lopes sprayed the ball out wide to Mauro Riquicho (Portugal’s right-back). Riquicho aimed a cross to the far post, which was headed back into the path of Gelson Martins. Martins’ shot was parried by the Israeli goalkeeper directly into the path of Andre Silva, who tapped the ball into the net. With the score 2-0 in favor of Portugal, the team continued to press, and although Israel came close a few times, it was largely one-way traffic in favor of Portugal. And about a quarter of an hour after their second goal, Portugal extended their lead even further through their star man, Marcos Lopes. Portugal won a corner kick, which was cleared by Israel only as far as Joao Nunes, who sent in a cross. The cross was also dealt with by the Israelis, but their clearance was acrobatically saved by Nuno Santos. His pass was found by Marcos Lopes, who took a touch around an opposition player and then proceeded to strike a wonderful left-footed volley, which left the Israeli goalkeeper rooted to the spot. With Portugal up 3-0, the Portuguese did not look very keen on trying to extend their lead any further, and the match flow was largely lost. That goal was the last event of note in the match, and the game ended with a score of 3-0 in favor of Portugal.
Portugal will now face hosts Hungary in three days time. Hungary lost their match today against Austria by a score of 3-1. Should Portugal defeat Hungary, which at this point looks very likely, the team will advance to the semi-finals and will guarantee a spot in next summer’s U-20 World Cup.
Andre Moreira, Joao Nunes, Domingos Duarte, Rafa(Rebocho), Mauro Riquicho, Raphael Guzzo(Francisco Ramos), Tomas Podstawski, Marcos Lopes, Gelson Martins(Nuno Santos), Ivo Rodrigues, Andre Silva